Baby 911

Your first trip to the ER.


Taking a child to the emergency room is scary enough, but it's particularly frightening for the brand-new parents of an infant. Here's the lowdown:

When you arrive: "Most hospitals won't separate parents from their child," says Kathy N. Shaw, M.D., director of the emergency department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "We also try to get babies out of the waiting area quickly, so they're not exposed to other patients' germs."

Tests to expect: "Newborns 6 to 8 weeks old or younger go through a battery of tests called a 'standard sepsis evaluation' if they have a rectal temperature greater than 100.5° F," Shaw says. "Their immune responses aren't fully developed, so they're more vulnerable to infections from bacteria like E. coli and staphylococcus, as well as viruses." The tests include a blood culture and a complete blood count (CBC), which look for the presence of infection and analyze the blood; a urine culture; and a spinal tap. There also may be X-rays if your baby was injured in a fall.

Questions to ask: "Don't be afraid to ask what's happening at each stage, and also why the doctors and nurses are doing what they're doing if you're not clear," says Alfred Sacchetti, M.D., chief of emergency services at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, N.J.

Keeping baby calm: Between tests or whenever possible, try soothing techniques you use at home such as nursing or singing.